A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 - Wednesday 13th May 2015

Canmore and Banff

overcast 12 °C

We both slept in a little this morning so we were late getting on the road. For the first time on our trip we had an overcast day, and max temp was only 12 Celsius. We drove around Canmore, first we visited the Nordic Centre where the winter Olympians come to train. We found a couple of athletes at the biathlon shooting range practising. We drove down to the Bow River and around the campsite, then headed up the hill to the Silvertip Golf Course perched up high on the mountainside.

We drove into Canmore where Vicky browsed in an antique store and picked up 2 reminders of our trip and another present to send to one of our previous bed n breakfast hosts. We then drove over to Banff and took the gondola ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, some 2,450 metres above sea level. The amazing thing here was the wind was cold and blowing at ground level yet at the top of the mountain there was no wind. We took the boarded walk along a bit further to the old weather observatory building that was built there early last century. We had views of the Banff township below and way beyond, and around the other side where dozens of snow capped mountain peaks were all visible. Quite an amazing sight.

We each had a soup up there after our walk then we took the gondola back down and then went to the Banff Hot Springs next door. These thermal springs were discovered late 1800s and the baths were first opened in 1886. Despite the cool day temp, we spent an hour in the thermal pool where the water was a toasty 37 Celsius.

We headed back to Canmore and had dinner at the local micro brewery "The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company". By the time we got back to our room it was past 8:30pm, and I had time to check emails (luckily as there was an email telling us our boarding time for our cruise this Saturday was delayed a few hours). Tomorrow we leave Canmore for a long drive west to Kelowna in BC.

Posted by Ace from Oz 21:47 Archived in Canada Tagged banff canmore sulphur_mountain banff_hot_springs Comments (0)

Day 14 - Tuesday 12th May 2015

Beautiful Banff

sunny 14 °C

After a good sleep we were greeted with a lovely breakfast prepared by our hosts. Carmello made us a yummy omelette with salmon and cream cheese. We then set off exploring the sights around and nearby Banff.

First stop was at a place called Lake Minnewanka. We found three mountain goats grazing near the car park when we arrived and they allowed us to take pics and video of them. They then walked to the lake to take a drink of the water which allowed us more photo opportunities! The lake was very scenic, as most of the lakes here are. The ones fed by the glaciers have the bluish water which looks fantastic.

Our next destination required us to drive up a steep winding road until we got to the viewpoint on Mt Norquay. There are ski fields here but these were now closed. Still the view from up high was spectacular, we could see all of the city of Banff below and the area surrounding for miles. Despite the weather being nice here so far, up very high on the mountain the wind made it freezing cold.

We then headed north a while and got to Johnston Canyon. We needed to walk along he canyon sides for over 1km to get to the first waterfall, but it was an impressive show as you got up real close and felt the spray of the water. On our walk we were greeted by two squirrels, who unlike all the previous ones we had seen would always run away, these two basically came right up close and stood up on their back legs. At a guess I'd say they were looking for food from the tourists.

We travelled west from here, actually crossing back into British Columbia. We stopped at Marble Canyon and proceeded to walk along the canyon right up to the waterfall. The canyon was so deep, you could only just see the water at the bottom after it had fallen from the falls. The landscape here was quite a contrast to what we have been seeing, the area around the canyon was burnt in a big bushfire in 2003. Remnants of that fire still remain, but you can also see the new growth that has formed. We travelled further along to another waterfall but alas this one was closed to the public, not sure why.

It was getting late in the afternoon so we drove the 45min back to Banff and looked around the Banff Springs Golf Course and the Fairmont Resort before heading for an early dinner. We found an Irish style pub and decided to be game and order a buffalo burger and elk burger. We thought we'd try the local cuisine. Both seemed ok and the meals were filling. We had intended to bathe in the Banff Hot Springs but the early evening air was cold and we were both tired. We picked up a few groceries and headed back to our room for the night.

Posted by Ace from Oz 22:18 Archived in Canada Tagged banff marble_canyon mt_norquay lake_minnewanka johnston_canyon Comments (0)

Day 13 - Monday 11th May 2015

Remembering Uncle Joe

sunny 16 °C

Today we had another hearty breakfast at our B & B in Jasper before packing the car once again for our day on the road. And what a day it was! We saw sights today we've never ever seen and probably unlikely to see again.

We drove off from Jasper and less than half an hour south we stopped at the Athabasca Falls. Waterfalls are always great, to see the calm river meandering along then all of a sudden plummet down with a crashing roar. Both these falls, and then a short drive to see the Sunaptwa Falls, were great to see and witness the power water has over rock along a long time span.

We took off again but soon something caught me eye as I drove along the Icefields Parkway. I said to Vicky that I thought I saw a brought bear perched high on a tree. She didn't believe me of course! I wasn't quite sure as we were travelling 100kph so I doubled back around and sure enough, there it was. It had climbed up high in the tree, it was eating the berries or whatever was on that tree. We stopped roadside to take pics and videos and as often happens here, other motorists soon stopped also to view. As soon as you see a car stopped on the highway here in Canada it usually means they have spotted wildlife. We watched the bear for about 10 minutes, as it reached the top of the thinning tree we were sure the branches would snap and it would fall, but it clung on. Definitely a highlight of the trip so far to get so close to a brown bear in the wild.

Another short drive and we were presented with the spectacular view of the Columbia Icefields. It felt like I was dropped on another planet, words can't describe this place. Best way to explain - the Athabasca Glacier that we could see in front of us had been through the terrain, carving out the rock in its path. Where we stopped and parked to buy tickets for the glacier tour was where the glacier had been in the late 1800s. Now it is a few hundred metres into the mountains and it has left behind rubble and dirt. We took a special glacier bus - only 23 of the world exist and all but one are here - and it drove us onto the glacier where we hopped off and walked around for about 20 minutes taking photos. Certainly another awesome experience.

As we travelled south we found the snow capped mountains more and more abundant. The views were incredible. We also found that despite it being just 6 weeks short of their summer here, some of the roads we wanted to travel on to see some sights were still closed due to ice. We pulled over and tried to see Peyto Lake, but the entire place was snowed in still. We attempted to walk the several hundred metres to the viewpoint but we kept sinking in the snow and without the proper gear we had to turn back and miss out.

Our next stops were to be Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, but again the road to Lake Moraine was closed. But we still got to Lake Louise which is one of the most photographed lakes in the world. Only just over 1.5kms long it has mountains and glaciers at the far end, and when we got there we found the lake was still totally frozen over. It was quite a sight to see but a fully thawed Lake Louise would have been more spectacular as the blue glacier-fed water makes this a stunning sight to see.

Entering Lake Louise was an emotional time, I had to fight back the small tears welling up. My reason is that I first heard of Lake Louise when I was a child, my mother's Uncle Joe would always tell us it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. As a young child, that didn't mean much to me, not knowing anything about travel at that age. But Uncle Joe loved Canada, he would come here many times. I remember him telling me about a place called Kamloops and as a child I thought that was a funny name for a place, reminded me of Fruit Loops. On our train journey here we stopped at Kamloops but stayed on the train. And today here I was standing and looking at the Lake Louise I had first heard about some 40 years ago and my thoughts turned to the words from Uncle Joe. It was a sombre moment but a special one for me.

Enough of the sentiment! The day was passing and we still had about 90 minutes to get to our next bed n breakfast which was in Canmore, about 22kms south of Banff. I dropped Vicky off at the laundromat in town as we had been travelling almost two weeks and had not washed any clothes. I went to our B & B to check in, a lovely place called Stella Alpina where I was warmly welcomed by the owners. Turns out Carmelo (who runs the place with his wife Anneke), was born in Sicily and has been to the island where my parents are both from. It was a tiring but amazing day driving, it wasn't long before we settled in and crashed off to sleep.

Posted by Ace from Oz 21:51 Archived in Canada Tagged lake_louise athabasca_glacier athabasca_falls sunwapta_falls brown_bear columbia_icefield Comments (0)

Day 12 - Sunday 10th May 2015

Jasper Sightseeing

sunny 20 °C

A full day of sightseeing and adventure today - we started by driving a few minutes to the base of Whistler Mountain and caught the tramway up to the top. The views of Jasper and the surrounding areas were amazing. We decided to try our fate and walk on the snow up to the summit, it was 1.4km away but we didn't quite make it. We weren't really prepared for the walk on the snow, I only had sneakers and we were both unfit to get all the way. Still, we climbed up a fair way and the views were even more breathtaking. I didn't have a cap and found out too late I had gotten sunburnt on my face. It's supposed to be very cold up there but today was excellent, no wind at all and I was up there walking in a tshirt only. Can't remember the exact height but the summit was over 3,000 metres above sea level.

After we came back to ground level we started driving off and saw a car parked on the road - it's usually a sign they have spotted some wildlife. They certainly did, just a little way through the trees we saw a momma black bear and a cub. Vicky jumped across the road with her camera but only caught pics from a distance. We drove off and again within a few minutes saw some white tailed deer up against the side of the road.

We drove off to Maligne Canyon, a deep gorge formed by the river. We crossed over two of the bridges and saw the river plummet 38 metres below us. From here we drove another 40kms to Maligne Lake, and upon arrival found it was still completely frozen over. An amazing sight to see, something neither of us had even experienced.

We headed back to Jasper town and stopped by Lake Patricia and Pyramid Lake both very close to Jasper. We then drove about an hour to the Miette Hot Springs, along the way we saw a herd of of mountain goats beside the highway, plenty of motorists stopping to take pics. We got to the thermal springs, they had only just opened up this weekend after being closed since last year. The natural hot water comes from the ground at 45 degrees Celsius, so they add cold water to make it bearable to swim. We soaked in the spring for about an hour, very relaxing.

We saw more wildlife on our drive home, but none as exciting as the momma black bear with her two cubs. They were right beside the road, we pulled up very close but then they started moving away up the hillside. Still we got some pics, very cool to be so close in the wild. We arrived back in Jasper at 8:30pm and quite hungry so grabbed dinner in town before heading back to our room. Definitely a most memorable day, the sights, the animals, the adventures - certainly a day to treasure.

Posted by Ace from Oz 21:57 Archived in USA Tagged jasper whistler_mountain maligne_lake miette_hotsprings Comments (0)

Day 11 - Saturday 9th May 2015

Canadian Rockies

sunny 19 °C

Our first ever overnight sleep on a train last night - interesting experience. The rocking of the train made it easy to sleep but every so often you get jolted awake in your sleep. We both woke early, 5:20am, and as we looked outside we had hit the scenic part of the rail trip. We both showered early as there was only one shower per carriage and went down to breakfast at 6:30am. We got a nice cooked breakfast, certainly a good start to the day.

After breakfast we adjourned to the Scenic Dome car, where we sat up high with domed windows so we could see in all directions. We spent the whole morning in there viewing the trees, mountains, rivers. We had an early lunch at 11:30am again a cooked three course meal.

We stayed a little longer in the Scenic Dome car but then went to the Panorama Car, which had large glass windows from seat height up to the ceiling. Here we got the best views as the train made its way along we saw stunning mountains covered in snow, more lakes and rivers. It was like being in another world altogether. The train arrived in Jasper 45 minutes late, I ran over to the car rental place and picked up our car for the next 7 days.

We found our bed n breakfast, The Glass House, and we had the entire upper loft to ourselves. Very spacious and beautiful, only problem is the upstairs is all open so we could easily hear the other guests that were staying downstairs.

We walked down to the Jasper town centre, only a few minutes away. Having been stuck on a train nearly 24 hours we needed to stretch our legs. We decided to have dinner at a Greek styled restaurant called "Something Else". As usual we ate too much, and after walking back to our room we crashed out fairly quickly.

Posted by Ace from Oz 21:24 Archived in Canada Tagged canada vancouver rail jasper via Comments (0)

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